*Washington, D.C. – After Jussie Smollett’s indictment on felony charges for lying to law enforcement about an alleged hate crime, members of the Project 21 black leadership network are asking the NAACP to rescind Smollett’s nomination for an upcoming Image Awards.
“Everyone has a reason to be disappointed with Jussie Smollett right now, and these accumulated reasons justify the NAACP taking swift and appropriate action to remove him from consideration for its Image Award,” said Project 21 Co-Chairman Council Nedd II. “Smollett is charged with perpetrating a hate crime hoax that wasted valuable police resources and stoked racial tensions nationwide. It hurt our nation’s ability to heal its racial wounds and made the NAACP’s civil rights goals harder to achieve. The NAACP needs to make it clear that his behavior is not OK by removing him from contention for an Image Award.”
Smollett was nominated for “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.” Smollett’s nomination was announced before the actor was charged in the hoax, and Project 21 members say rescinding it now would allow the NAACP to preserve the intent of the Image Awards to honor “individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors.” The NAACP Image Awards are scheduled to be held on March 30 in Hollywood.
“Jussie Smollett was charged with 16 counts of disorderly misconduct for allegedly lying to the Chicago police, who said the actor orchestrated a racist and homophobic hate crime against himself,” said Project 21 member Jerome Hudson. “The NAACP was founded to help move America beyond our deeply racist past. Generations of men and women – both black and white – have dedicated their lives to that noble cause. It would be nothing short of a slap in the face to those civil rights heroes for the NAACP to now honor Smollett with an Image Award while he’s suspected of using symbols of racial barbarism – including a noose – to shamelessly advance and promote his career.”
Smollett, an actor on the Fox Network show “Empire,” claimed to have been attacked on a Chicago street on January 29, alleging that two men targeted him because he is black and gay. After a thorough investigation, Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson reported that Smollett colluded with others to stage the attack and “took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” adding that “[t]his stunt was orchestrated by Smollett because he was dissatisfied with his salary.”
“More than enough time has passed for the NAACP to revoke Jussie Smollett’s Image Award nomination, and yet it hasn’t. Why?” asked Project 21 member Derryck Green. “That the so-called civil rights organization hasn’t rescinded Smollett’s nomination in light of the evidence released by the Chicago Police Department, the lie-filled interview with Robin Roberts and a grand jury’s decision to indict him on 16 counts of felonious disorderly conduct leads many to believe the NAACP has once again chosen racial solidarity over truth and integrity. Smollett embarrassed himself. He’s a fraud. The NAACP should distance itself from Smollett and not continue to damage what’s left of its reputation.”
This is the second time Project 21 has criticized the selection process of the NAACP Image Awards. In 2004, Project 21 took issue with the nomination of R&B singer R. Kelly being nominated for “Outstanding Album” while he was under indictment for alleged child pornography violations. At that time, NAACP’s then-President Kweisi Mfume said the NAACP’s board would reconsider the selection process for the Image Awards to ensure no nominee “fails to meet the high standards for positive, constructive images on which the program was originally created.”
After Smollett’s Image Award nomination in February, and before Smollett’s hate-crime allegations began to unravel, NAACP President Derrick Johnson told The Wrap: “We need to aggressively pursue a course of action that if, in fact, individuals committed these crimes they are held accountable, as well as pursue a course of action in the media to allow people to understand that we must have more tolerance and acceptance of all citizens.”
Project 21 members hope the NAACP will now similarly hold Smollett accountable and pursue a course of action that will help heal the damage Smollett’s apparent hoax has done to racial reconciliation. To not do so, they contend, puts the group’s reputation at risk.
“Why would the NAACP want to nominate a hate crime hoaxer for an Image Award? It would only do so to perpetuate the image of hatred and bigotry that keeps the antiquated organization relevant in the 21st century,” said Project 21 member Richard Holt. “Since it can’t seem to legitimize its continued existence by fighting for real black issues – such as black entrepreneurial access to capital, judicial reform and the black genocide conducted by Planned Parenthood – it will follow the typical leftist racism trope. Maybe the NAACP should get back to its roots so we can all imagine a version of the organization that seeks to help people of color get to the mountain’s peak that is within arm’s length.”
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